Blaze Damages 6 Homes

Nervous moments: Camden firefighters douse flames as neighbors gather in the 700 block of Grant Street.

Camden Courier-Post – July 31, 1991

Camden Fire Called Suspicious


CAMDEN — At least 12 people were forced from their homes after a three-alarm fire damaged six row houses in the 700 block of Grant Street Tuesday.

Battalion No. 1 Fire Chief Joseph Gfrorer said the fire began in a vacant row-home at 710 Grant Street at 2:30 p.m. It quickly spread to another vacant house at 712 Grant Street and to two occupied homes at 714 and 716, he said. The fire also leaped across the narrow street, damaging occupied homes at 711 and 713 Grant Street, fire officials said.

The fire was under control by 3:06 p.m. and no one was reported injured, Gfrorer said.

He said the cause of the blaze was being investigated. But, he said, the fire started in a vacant home and "they don’t start by themselves."

Neighbors said the blaze was set. One, who would not give his name, said he saw two young men carrying red and yellow gasoline containers around the building before the fire erupted.

The brick row-home where the fire started was destroyed. Its roof was gone and a only few charred beams of the second floor hung from the brick shell.

Julia Lebron’s home at 716 Grant Street had some fire damage on the second floor, the windows were broken and many of her family’s possessions were destroyed. She said she and her four children will be staying with relatives on the 400 block of Grant Street.

“I saw the smoke and went inside,” Lebron said. “By the time I came out it (the vacant home at 710 Grant Street) was totally in flames. It was really quick.”

“I am really lucky,” she added. One door closer to the vacant houses, at 714 Grant Street, the home was a shambles.

The family refused to talk. Their furniture and possessions lay under a layer of soggy white ash. There were gaping holes in the roof.

As the neighbors swept the street clean, a Camden County Red Cross worker talked with the residents of each home to ensure the families had a place to stay.

Across the street, the second story windows of two homes were smashed and there was some water damage inside. The outside wood trim along the front porches and the window frames were charred.

Mabel Mendez, 29, of 711 Grant Street, said she and her three children will stay in a hotel until she finds another place to live.

Out on the street, Carmen Alicea, 30, swept the ash into piles along the curb near her home at 715 Grant Street. A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, picked up the piles with a snow shovel and threw the debris on the sidewalk outside the two burned vacant houses.

Alicea, whose home was spared any serious damage, said she was cleaning up the street for her neighbors. She said the neighborhood was a close-knit group.

“It was the only place that was safe,” she said.

Now, after this fire, she doesn’t feel so secure.

“Probably I’ll move now,” she said, “I’m scared.”


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